Interview: Samuel Fry of Life in Film

By on Tuesday, 28th April 2015 at 11:00 am
 

Last week, London-based Life in Film had just started their support slot with the Wombats on their month-long tour of North America, beginning in Toronto on the 21st of April. After quite a long drive from the Great White North down to the City of Brotherly Love, I had an opportunity to chat on the phone with their frontman Samuel Fry (vocals and guitar) after they arrived ahead of a gig at Union Transfer and got a chance to do some “looking around Philadelphia, it’s really beautiful”.

It’s an exciting time for the band, as they’re gearing up to release their debut album ‘Here It Comes’ on both sides of the Atlantic in under 2 weeks at the time of this interview; Samuel describes the LP’s title as representing “a statement of it [all] coming to fruition”. I feel I also have caught Samuel at a good time, as at this point they’d only played one gig on this side of the pond at Toronto’s Lee’s Palace that he described as “an amazing show”, and everyone was in high spirits and full of energy. And also apparently full of the often maligned, indigenous to Pennsylvania meatloaf scrapple from a local diner where they’d stopped in that morning for breakfast. But rather than digress into a retelling of the band’s varied diet while out on the road here, I went straight into asking Samuel how the band got together.

“Me and the guitar player Ed [Edward Ibbotson], we went to school together. Then we both went to different universities. While at university, I met Dom [bassist Dominic Sennett] and Micky [drummer Osment] because they were at the music college I was at. We [Samuel and Edward] moved back to London after we finished, and Dom and Mick decided to move to London as well. We all got together and decided to play music together.

“But we were kind of just mucking about at first, you know? We all lived together, yeah, and we used to hang out and listen to a lot of music, really. Then we found a little practise room near where we lived, which was underneath a snooker hall. It was a dingy little dungeon, it was really nasty! But it was kind of cool because no-one else really practised there and so we could go whenever we wanted to use it , and we started to put a couple of songs together. Felt good about [them] and went from there, really.”

Samuel Fry of Life in Film, a still from Berlin Sessions, 2015
a still from Life in Film’s performance with Berlin Sessions earlier this year

I tell Samuel that from the longtime Life in Film fan’s perspective, it seems like the debut album has been a long time coming. He agrees. “Yeah, I suppose it does, it’s quite a long process. When you start off [songwriting by] doing just the odd song. You kind of record one song at a time so you can get a feel for it at first, you know? And you’re writing as you go, and you’ve just started out gigging and stuff, and that’s a bit of a process. And then you start working with different people like managers and labels, and all of those things take time. That’s the nature of a debut album, I suppose. The next album, we’d probably record it all as one…we wouldn’t go through so much demoing and kind of early development of our sound. We know where we’re at and what we want to do… So, yeah, it does feel like it’s taken time, but I’m not surprised, really.”

Famed producer Stephen Street was called into work on Life in Film’s ‘Here It Comes’, so I ask him if any or all of their band were fans of his work with the Smiths or Blur. “Very much so. We love the Smiths, and we love Blur. So when originally thought there was the possibility we might be working with him after we managed to get a demo under his nose and he listened to it, he offered to work with us on a couple of tracks, and we were really buzzing about it. It went really well and we got on with him really well, and we managed to get him to agree to do the whole album. So yeah, it was a really exciting experience, to learn from him, from a person with those kind of credentials.”

I asked further if knowing about Street’s storied work history made it harder to work with him in the studio. “I think it was a bit intimidating, initially”, Samuel admits, “because he’s worked with all these amazing musicians. But he’s used to working with so many talented people. But to be honest, as soon as you meet the guy and you chat to him, he immediately puts you at ease completely. He’s a really down to earth bloke. So very quickly, we felt very relaxed in his company, and it was a nice process to go through, basically.”

He then reveals to me he got a super special moment with a super special piece of equipment in Street’s studio: “I got to play Graham Coxon‘s guitar…well, Stephen lent to Graham Coxon [for] the first time he played the telly, a Telecaster apparently. And he let me borrow it for some of the songs. It has a really amazing sound, that Telecaster vintage sound, and I was playing Graham Coxon’s guitar…and I was really chuffed about that!”

I ask Samuel if he has a favourite song off the album. “I personally like ‘Anna’ [‘Anna Please Don’t Go’],a song Ed wrote. I think it’s got such a nice pop song kind of structure, but it’s got so much sentiment. It’s always been a favourite of mine, personally. I think as a band, we all like ‘Forest Fire’ quite a lot because for the recording process for that, we got a lot of different instruments and loaded them up, and it all fell together nicely. I think we achieved something quite atmospheric with that one.”

We touch back on the show in Toronto they played less than 48 hours previously and in a city some 750 kilometres behind them. “That first show in Toronto, the reception was brilliant”, muses Samuel. “We couldn’t have asked for more, really. Everyone’s been really friendly. So now it’s on for tonight in Philadelphia.” Many more shows and many more drives are up ahead for Life in Film during this lengthy stint supporting the Wombats around the continent, and I’m confident our audiences will take to their engaging songwriting.

Thanks very much to Samuel for chatting with me, and Anna and Jonny for helping sort out this interview.

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